This week I launched my brand new website: actionplan.club
Over the last 20 years, I’ve designed and launched a total of seven different versions of my site.
In the process, I’ve learned a number of things, made a lot of mistakes and gained some wisdom about how to make a website serve your business and help you attract more clients.
Today, I’d like to share a summary of those insights.
A client-attracting tool
That’s ultimately what a website is. It’s not a monument to your ego or something beautiful to look at (although there’s nothing wrong with a visually attractive website).
For independent professionals, a website needs to explain to your prospective clients why you’re the person to help them with their particular issues and challenges.
A Lead-gathering tool
When someone visits your website, they should be inspired to take some sort of action right on the spot – otherwise, the chances of them ever visiting your site again are immensely low.
And that’s why I believe the most important part of your site is its ability to build an opt-in email list. If you don’t have a list, it’s like having a wonderful car with no gas in the tank.
Virtually all my business over the past 20 years has come from email promotions to those who joined the list on my website. When you don’t have a list, you severely limit your marketing possibilities.
Make opt-ins obvious
I can’t tell you how many clients have shown me their website with a tiny little opt-in box that says, “Please join my list,” or some other tepid appeal. And they wonder why they have a tiny e-list.
Fewer people want to join lists these days. We already have too much email in your in-boxes. But if you give away some substantial value, many will still opt-in to get it and join your e-list in the process.
Your opt-in box should be attractively designed and attention getting. And you should use various two-step opt-ins throughout your site. They are like little ads that say, in effect, “Go here and get my valuable free stuff,” which directs them to your sign-up page. Free Stuff – www actionplan.club /free-stuff
Simple navigation – in-depth content
The biggest change I made in my new website was to dramatically simplify my navigation. My old site had links to so many pages that it become overwhelming to navigate.
But I still have in-depth pages that describe my services. These are the main pages I want my prospects to visit, that explain in detail how I help my clients. Not everyone will read long copy but serious prospects will read much more than you think. Programs (link)
Publish a Blog
For 20 years, I’ve sent out my email newsletter to thousands of subscribers. With my previous website (since Jan 2011) I took the weekly ezine article and also posted it as a blog. Why? Because blog posts are indexed by Google and after seven years I have 355 blog posts on the web, all pointing back to my site. Blog page – www actionplan.club/ blog
People ask how I’m able to write a new article every single week. My answer is stupidly simple: I make Mondays the day I write my ezine/blog article and it’s usually the first thing I write Monday mornings, even before I check my email. Now it’s become a habit that comes easily and naturally.
Use WordPress. It took me a long time to make the transition as I’d invested a huge amount of time and money on the previous site. But you can do almost anything you want on a WordPress site with easily installable plugins. It’s knocking my socks off!
Hire a designer. The average independent professional is not a terrible writer. But most are hopeless designers. If you design it yourself, you’ll probably love it, but you may be the only one!
It’s worth the relatively small one-time investment to get a design that will make your site look both attractive and professional.
Hire a WordPress developer. Setting up a WordPress site is tricky technically. My developer understands every little bit of code that makes it run smoothly. Get someone who says, “no, problem, I can do that!”
By the way, sometimes a designer and developer are one and the same person, but these are very different skill sets and few people can do both well.
Learn WordPress basics. Once your site has been designed and developed, you need to learn how to edit and adjust it yourself. A short tutorial from your developer will give you what you need. Make sure they build that into the fee for your development.
Larger fonts (typeface). These days, computer monitors are bigger than ever. So, small fonts get buried.
Readable type. Don’t make your type so light that it’s a strain to read. I recently looked at an associate’s website and it was literally unreadable because his small, thin typeface was also light grey. It looked cool, but I couldn’t get through one paragraph.
Color scheme. Keep your font colors to black or dark gray, for readability, and then have two main colors for page headlines and subheads. Too many colors detract from the overall look and feel.
And by the way, reverse type or light-colored type on a dark background, are almost always a no-no. It’s not good for readability.
Also, I highly recommend using text bolding to make your key ideas pop out – but only on first sentences of paragraphs. Too much bolding can make it harder, rather than easier, to read.
White space. Text needs space to breathe. Remember, it’s all about readability. So have ample left and right page margins (about 25% of the total width of your pages), space between paragraphs, and paragraphs no longer than five lines.
Also, side columns that contain other content make your main column of text narrower, hence more readable.
Graphics. Various pictures and photos on a web page not only make it attractive, they increase readability. For instance, I like breaking up text on long sales letters with high-quality photos of independent professionals.
The site of a colleague uses beautiful pictures from nature. It really depends on your business and identity.
Remember, there is no perfect way a website should look. The primary considerations are attractiveness and highly readable text.
I’ve written about this extensively in the past and even developed a program on this (the Website Toolkit). Ultimately, this is the most important part of your site – what you say and how you say it.
One of my favorite marketing quotes: “Write when drunk, edit when sober. Marketing is the hangover.”
If not drunk, write with passion and abandon. Then go back and tone it down a bit.
Content Flow. Most of us can write coherent sentences, but what style or approach works best for writing website content?
I use an approach called, “Marketing Syntax,” where I put ideas in a certain order or syntax. This can be used for your Home page, About page, and Services pages (which are the most important pages on your site).
The content flow goes like this:
1. Who – A section on who your ideal clients are.
2. Problem – A section on the problems and challenges your prospective clients are experiencing.
3. Desire – What your clients would like to have if they could resolve their problems and challenge.
4. Solution – The actual results you are able to deliver to your clients that fulfill their desires.
5. Credibility – Why you are uniquely qualified and experienced to help your clients.
6. Call-to-Action – What the prospective client should do next to find out more or to meet with you.
What about the process of what you do? Unfortunately, too many websites go too deeply down the “process rabbit hole” where they explain too much about how they do what they do.
Prospective clients are more interested in the results they get from your services and if you’re the right person to help them. Of course, at the end of sales letters (services pages), you can outline a little of the structure of how you work.
This is hardly an advanced course on writing for websites (the Website Toolkit is), but it’s a reliable and simple framework for writing copy that your prospective clients will relate and respond to.
Finally, I highly recommend you hire a proofreader/editor who will undoubtedly find a number of typos, grammatical mistakes, and poorly expressed ideas. It’s worth it if you are to make a professional impression.